There is a sacredness in tears.

They are not the mark of weakness, but power.

They speak more eloquently than 10,000 tongues.

They are the messengers of overwhelming grief,

of deep contrition

and unspeakable love.

Washington Irving

Good Grief: How to understand the process, productively mourn your loss and move forward

Grief comes to us all

Grief is often our companion as we journey through life. We expect sorrow with the passing of a loved one or a dear companion.  But we may also grieve a dream not realized or an unattainable goal. We may walk with grief in the discovery of disappointment or betrayal from a loved one.  Grief is no respecter of race, religion or status. If we believe ourselves to be immune from the certainty of grief our innocence may prove devastating for It is decidedly part of the human experience.

5 Stages of Grief

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross defined five stages of grief.  They are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and finally acceptance. Regardless of they type of grief we are experiencing our healing seems to work its way through these stages. The grief process may not be linear and it is common to repeat one or two of the stages several times.

An example of grief and loss

To illustrate how these stages play out let’s take a hypothetical case.  Megan is a young vibrant mother who discovers she has a profound hearing loss.  In the denial stage, Megan ignores her first doctor’s opinion and seeks for another better-trained physician. After other respectable doctors confirm the diagnosis, Megan becomes angry.  At first she is angry at unrelated petty things but as she becomes more in touch with her feelings, Megan becomes angry with God for allowing her to lose her hearing.

As Megan seeks to put meaning to her experience, she becomes depressed.  She has a difficult time taking care of herself and shuts out others around her. A concerned friend of Megan introduces her to an extreme diet and exercise program.  Megan submits to the program religiously.  She believes if she follows the program exactly she will get her hearing back. Megan is in the bargaining stage.

Finally Megan accepts her hearing will not come back.  Megan and her family learn sign language together.  Megan meets new friends with a similar disability; new activities and programs open up to her.  She decides that life as a deaf person is not bad; in fact she is proud of her personal growth.

It is easy to see how the stages of grief progress through the hypothetical case of Megan.  But what are some strategies to help us move thought the stages and reach acceptance?  After all some people do get stuck and never progress beyond depression and anger. It may be helpful to remember the stages of grief and allow yourself permission to work through them.  Strength of will alone cannot prevent the natural process of the bereavement.  Even the best among us suffer denial, anger, depression and bargaining when coping with loss.

Group affiliation works to soften grief

When the nation mourned the tragic events of 9/11, we helped soften the impact to those directly affected by the death. When George Bush shouted out,  “We hear you… Your pain because your loss is ours,” his message seemed to be the joint public outcry across the mass media. The 9/11 families felt affirmed and strengthened.

You can also join a grief support group in your local area.  Affiliating with others who have also lost a loved one may help move you towards the acceptance stage.

Give meaning to your suffering

In the book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl describes and experience with an elderly man who was despondent because his wife had died.  Frankl asked her how it would have been if he had died first and the man replied, “ It would have been terrible for her; how she would have suffered.”  Frankl then stated, “Such suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering—the price that you now have is to survive and mourn her.”  In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice. (p. 113)

Ceremonies, memorials, and tributes are helpful ways to book mark your experience and give meaning to your suffering.

Screenshot 2015-11-29 12.07.05

wishing you were somehow here again….

One of my favorite songs describing grief is from “Phantom of the Opera” where Christine sings about the loss of her father.  The poignant reframe, “wishing you were somehow here again,” perfectly describes the pain and ache of deep personal loss.

We are hard wired for attachment and dreams, so grief is a part of the human experience. We can productively mourn our grief by recognizing the stages, finding affiliation and attaching meaning to our suffering.

If you feel you need help dealing with disappointment, loss or betrayal get in touch with a counselor trained in grief work.

Another post that may be helpful:


Camille Curtis Foster 

Contact Me: 801.472.7134/ 

Additional article:  I think the same thoughts apply to anyone whether they have lost the loved one through death or divorce.






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